Best Antivirus for Android
There are hundreds of antivirus apps in the Google Play Store, but these five stood out as the best of the best.
Let’s face it: Android is a great mobile operating system, but the sheer number of viruses and malware capable of infecting Androids is concerning. That’s why having reliable antivirus software is a must for Android-users. Now, the keyword there is “reliable”. While there are hundreds of Android antivirus apps, only a small percentage can truly provide virus and malware protection. We took a dive and tested those apps to see which ones are the best for our readers, and these five options stood out.
According to the latest reports, about 480,000 Android malware samples are being added to virus databases per month.1 That’s certainly a cause for concern, but also a strong motivator to get antivirus for our Android devices sooner rather than later. In addition to Trend Micro and AVG, we tested out three other Android antivirus apps that we deemed worthy of being on this list, namely, Avast, ESET, and Kaspersky. Which one is best for you? Let’s find out!
The Best Antivirus Software At A Glance
Trend Micro Antivirus
|Android App Name||Internet Security||Mobile Security & Antivirus||Avast Antivirus — Scan & Remove Virus, Cleaner||AVG Antivirus Free — Android Virus Cleaner||ESET Mobile Security & Antivirus|
|Google Play User Ratings (as of the time of writing)||4.8 stars||4.7 stars||4.7 stars||4.7 stars||4.8 stars|
|Annual Price Range||$11.99 - $44.99||$29.99 - $69.99||$24.99 - $49.99||$0.00 - $77.88||$14.95 - $74.95|
|Maximum Number of Devices||Up to five||Up to 10||Up to 10||Up to 10||Up to five|
|Free Trial/Version||Free version||Seven days of free trial||Free version||Free version||30 days of free trial|
|Refund Policy||30 days||30 days||30 days (for licenses purchased from Avast's website only)||30 days (Business Editions only)||60 days|
|Real-time Scanning||Premium version only||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Our Virus Detection Score||100%||66.6%||60%||60%||80%|
|A.V Lab's Detection of Recent Android Malware||99.90%||100%||98.60%||99.80%||99.80%|
|Read Review||Kaspersky Antivirus Review||Trend Micro Antivirus Review||Avast Antivirus Review||AVG Antivirus Review||ESET Antivirus Review|
Detailed Breakdown of the Best Android Antivirus Apps
1. Kaspersky - The Best Android Antivirus Overall
- 99.90 percent detection of recent Android malware
- 4.8 stars Google Play Store rating
- Affordable plans for up to five devices
- Feature-rich free version
- No real-time protection for free users
- Manual malware database updates
- Allegedly has ties to the Russian government
- Minimum of one year subscription, no monthly plans
Affordable Protection for Multiple Devices
The typical American household has five consumer electronic devices.3 With Kaspersky, the cost of adding antivirus to that many devices is only $44.99 per year or if we break it down, less than $1 per device monthly. Considering the level of virus protection Kaspersky provides (it was one of the only antivirus apps that aced our virus detection test), that deal is hard to beat.
Free Version for the Budget-Conscious
Now, if you own multiple devices but they are all Android, we’ve got even better news for you: you can use Kaspersky for free. The free version for Android provides lots of great features, such as on-demand scans, anti-theft protection, and call filtering. You’d have to live without a few key features, though, most notably real-time protection and anti-phishing. If you’re okay with that, then Kaspersky’s free mobile version is a winner. If not, it’s worth looking into Kaspersky’s pricing to see if there’s a plan that better suits your needs.
Full, Quick, and Custom Scans
Most of the apps we tested allowed for scan scope customizations, but Kaspersky made this feature the easiest to use. When we tapped on the scan button, it immediately asked us whether we wanted to do a full, quick, or custom scan. With other antivirus apps, we would need to go through several pages before we could switch between full and quick scans, let alone set up a custom scan, so we appreciated the convenience.
2. Trend Micro - The Most Affordable Android Antivirus
- 100 percent detection of recent Android malware
- 4.7 stars Google Play Store rating
- Checked for malicious apps before allowing installation
- Affordable subscription plans
- Features like email and payment protection were turned off by default
- No firewall
- Multi-device subscriptions need to be purchased from the website (not in-app)
- Free trial for the Android app lasts only seven days
Strong Malware Protection
Trend Micro checked off all the right boxes when it came to malware detection. First, it has both on-demand and on-access scans. On-demand scans were the ones we initiated by tapping the in-app scan button, while on-access scans were autonomous scans performed by the app whenever it was running. FYI, the app ran continuously in the background, so our malware protection was 24/7. Second, it scored an above-average 66.6 percent in our virus detection test, which means that it bested most of the antivirus apps we tested. And last but not least, it was one of the few apps that detected all new Android malware based on tests performed by an independent antivirus testing laboratory, A.V Labs.
Free Trial and Rates
Trend Micro was free for just seven days, but once the trial period ended, we had to shell out $29.99 or about $3 per month for a one-year subscription. On top of that, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you find that Trend Micro is not your cup of tea (which is unlikely if you ask us), you can get your entire money back, making it a risk-free purchase. Trend Micro’s pricing also includes monthly plans if you want a shorter commitment, or two-year subscriptions if you want bigger savings.
They say that prevention is better than cure, so in addition to on-access scans, Trend Micro actively scanned newly downloaded apps for malicious content. It also notified us of apps containing such content and made sure that our phones didn’t push through with the installation. Trend Micro’s proactive approach to malware protection makes it a handy companion for the likes of us who download and test lots of different apps.
3. Avast - The Best Free Antivirus for Android
- 98.60 percent detection of recent Android malware
- 4.7 stars Google Play Store rating
- Anti-theft protection
- Scanned public Wi-Fi networks for potential hackers
- Requires additional permissions to use some features like anti-theft protection
- Additional app is needed to access junk file cleaner
- Not-so-subtle advertising of other Avast products
- Setting up a custom scan required more taps than we hoped
Take Control of Your Data
Believe it or not, most antivirus apps including Avast collect a ton of data about their users for feature improvements and threat analysis. However, hidden deep within Avast’s settings, there’s actually an option that allows users to manage how their usage data is collected and used. That’s not a common sight in the world of antivirus apps. So as individuals who care deeply about people’s privacy, Avast has our seal of approval.
FYI: Avast’s personal privacy settings lets users choose whether or not to share threat and app usage data with Avast. It also lets users turn off sharing of app usage data with Avast’s third parties.
Avast also protected us from hoodie-wearing hackers trying to steal our information through unprotected Wi-Fi networks in cafes and airports. Okay, that sounded like something out of a movie, but the possibility of hacking is very real. Avast’s Wi-Fi security scanner checked Wi-Fi networks for vulnerabilities, such as those that would allow people nearby to hack our Android phone. And if a free Wi-Fi network is vulnerable, no thanks! We’d rather use precious mobile data to stay connected. On the other hand, whenever we connected to a safe Wi-Fi network, we still used Avast’s built-in VPN to mask our IP address. In terms of performance, it was similar to the Avast SecureLine VPN, so if you want to know how our experience was, check out our Avast SecureLine VPN review.
Protection in the Background
Avast’s ability to scan for malware wasn’t limited to user-initiated scans. It also protected our device in the background, a.k.a. real-time scanning. Even if we rarely opened the app, we felt safe seeing this reassuring message in our Android’s notification tray: “Avast is running. We’re always looking out for you.”
4. AVG - The Best Android Antivirus for Privacy
- 99.80 percent detection of recent Android malware
- 4.7 stars Google Play Store rating
- Real-time malware protection running in the background
- Free RAM booster and junk files cleaner
- Ads in the free version
- Cluttered user interface
- Some features like VPN and file cleaner required separate apps
- Frequent attempts to convince us to upgrade
A Not-So-Tall Paywall
Most antivirus apps hide their best features behind a paywall, but not AVG. We’ve been able to access most of the app’s features without spending a single cent. It had on-demand and real-time scans, customizable scan parameters, scheduled scans, and even RAM booster and file cleaner. The free version, however, was powered by ads, so expect to see pop-ups every now and then. Of course, we wanted the full experience, so we paid for the Ultimate plan, which got rid of the ads and unlocked two new features: a VPN and PIN protection for apps. The VPN was similar to the one we tested in our AVG VPN review, so it’s a good deal if you’re looking for antivirus and VPN for your Android device. Check out AVG’s pricing to see which plan works best for you.
AVG didn’t only protect our smartphones from digital threats, but also from physical threats that might endanger our privacy. We’re talking about device theft. If our phone gets stolen or lost, the anti-theft feature would allow us to access it from our computer. From there, we could track the device, sound an alarm, display a message on the lock screen, wipe our phones’ memory, and more. It could also take a picture or record audio remotely, but these features are reserved for those with paid plans.
App Insights was another feature we really liked, particularly its ability to analyze and categorize our apps based on how much access they have to our phones. The categories were self-explanatory— high permission, average permission, and low permission— but that alone provided us with useful insights on how we can improve our phone’s privacy. For instance, it categorized the Facebook app on our Android as a high permission app. By checking the app’s info, we saw that we mindlessly allowed it to track our locations. That’s a big no-no for us, so thanks to AVG, we’re now one step farther from being tracked.
5. ESET - The Best Android Antivirus for Students
- 99.80 percent detection of recent Android malware
- 4.8 stars Google Play Store rating
- Student discounts of up to 50 percent
- Security audit of device and app settings
- No free version, just free trials
- Expensive multi-device plans
- Complicated pricing and license packages
- Occasionally buggy app updates
Android and ESET, Perfect Combo for Students
About a third of Android users belong to the 16 to 24 age group2, which means a ton of students and fresh grads. Now, if you belong to the former category and have an existing .edu email address, ESET has some enticing student discount deals for you. You can check ESET’s pricing page for more information, but from what we’ve seen, you can get up to 50 percent off on antivirus subscriptions. Too bad we didn’t keep our .edu email addresses!
Clean User Interface
We’ve tested dozens of Android antivirus apps, and ESET had one of the most well-designed user interfaces. Everything was easy to access. Right on the app’s home screen, there were shortcuts to antivirus, anti-theft, anti-phishing, web protection features, and more. Below the shortcuts was the activity log that showed us reports of recent threats it detected. And whenever we needed to tinker with the advanced settings, the easy-to-access menu on the top right side of the screen was our go-to.
30 Days Trial, 60 Days Refund Policy
ESET doesn’t have a free Android version, but the premium Android antivirus is free to try for 30 days. That should give you plenty of time to decide if it’s the right antivirus for you. However, if 30 days is not enough, you can go ahead and purchase a premium plan and test it for 60 more days. If you think ESET is not for you, you can cancel anytime within the first 60 days and get your money back. After the 60 days, though, sorry! No more backsies.
We’ll Let You In On A Little Secret: Our Methodology
Testing Android antivirus apps is easy, right? You just download them, try them out, and see what works, correct? Well, our review process was a bit more complicated than that, so if you want to test antivirus apps yourself, we’ll let you in on our methodology.
Tests… Lots of ‘Em
We couldn’t call this a review without extensively testing each antivirus app, from the installation all the way to the user experience. We tested each app for at least six months and used both their free and paid-for versions when available. Of course, we followed the testing process that we outlined in our antivirus guide, which included the following.
Installation and Setup
All of the apps we tested came from the Google Play Store, which meant they all followed the same installation process. However, some antivirus apps required extra steps for the setup, like signing up for an account, granting system access, or choosing a subscription plan. These extra steps weren’t exactly a nuisance as they were necessary for some features to work, but we gave higher marks to the apps that required little to no user action during setup. We specifically liked the apps that jumped right into action and scanned for viruses the first time we opened them.
Piece of Advice: Never download .apk files a.k.a. Android installers from unverified websites, especially antivirus apps.
The next thing we tested was the apps’ ability to scan for viruses and malware, more specifically, how and where they looked for such threats. Most, if not all Android antivirus apps feature a ‘Scan’ button or something similar on their home screen, and tapping on that would initiate a (you guessed it!) scan of the device. That’s what we call an on-demand scan. There were also antiviruses that kept our smartphones protected by continuously running in the background and stopping threats as they happen. By definition, that’s called on-access scans, but most apps call it real-time scanning. We like having both on-demand and real-time scans in our arsenal of features, but unfortunately, that wasn’t always possible. Many free antivirus apps (and some paid apps) didn’t offer real-time scanning, so we made sure to highlight the ones that did.
We also paid attention to where each app searched for viruses and malware. There were antiviruses that scanned all files, folders, and apps by default, which is ideal for those who want to make sure their phones are completely virus-free. However, since full scans take time (about 30 minutes based on our experience), some apps are set to only do a quick scan by default with a separate option to do a full scan. Depending on what you’re looking for, both options are acceptable.
Virus Detection Test
If you’ve read one of our antivirus reviews, you might be familiar with our virus detection test (if you haven’t yet, take our Bitdefender antivirus review as a sampler). We took five different viruses, downloaded them, and scored each antivirus based on how many of the five they detected. We originally devised this test for desktop antivirus software, but when we recreated it with Android antivirus apps, we got mostly the same results. The highest score was five out of five, but the average score of the roughly 40 apps we tested was three out of five, or 60 percent virus detection.
AV-TEST Lab Results
We have strong confidence in our ability to test antivirus apps, but we also wanted to see how other antivirus experts rate each app. Specifically, we looked to AV-TEST’s independent lab results for the more technical tidbits. They have been testing Android antivirus apps for their ability to detect the most recent Android malware, such as those added to their database in the past four months prior to each test. Almost all of our five top picks got a near-perfect score, with the exception of Trend Micro, which actually got a perfect 100 percent score in AV-TEST’s November 2020 series of tests.
The Price Is Right! Or Is It?
The cost is a huge factor when it comes to choosing an antivirus app, so we assessed the price value of each antivirus software. Note that it’s not a contest of which is cheapest, but rather, which can provide more value and protection at an affordable price. We’d rather pay for an effective antivirus than go with a free antivirus that lacks necessary features. That’s not to say that all free antiviruses are not good enough, though. There were a number of free Android antivirus apps that passed our standards, and we made sure to include some of them in our top picks. If you want to learn more about free antivirus software, check out our review of the best free antiviruses.
Another factor was the number of devices they protected. Since antivirus is a must for Androids— and really all types of consumer electronic devices— we included options that could protect multiple devices within a single subscription. We found that in most cases, a standard antivirus subscription could protect between one and five devices, although there were some that provided protection to more than 10 devices.
The Fragile Thing Called ‘Privacy’
Access Granted, Access Denied
Antiviruses need access to files and folders to do their job, so it’s perfectly normal for an antivirus app to request access to your phone’s storage. However, some antivirus apps made requests we weren’t comfortable granting, at least without a reasonable explanation. For instance, some apps asked permission to access our camera, which was oddly suspicious because that’s not a place where a virus could hide. We later found out that it’s for a feature that would take snapshots in case our phones got stolen, but seeing the permission request certainly freaked us out a little.
Our advice is to check the antivirus app’s permissions by going to your phone’s apps settings. If you spot something suspicious, try denying the permission and see if it affects the app’s functionality.
Privacy 101: Be sure to check your antivirus app’s permissions in the Android settings. You can turn off permissions that seem suspicious or unnecessary as long as they don’t affect the antivirus apps’ features.
- What type of data do they collect?
- How will they use that data?
- With whom will they share it?
This may sound surprising, but most antivirus companies actually collect a lot of data from their customers, including, but not limited to:
- Personal information (such as contact details, name, email address, etc.)
- Payment information
- Browsing data (such as URLs, amount of data used, etc)
- Device information (such as MAC and IP addresses, IMEI numbers, and OS version)
- Technical and crash reports
- Location information
- Network data (such as Wi-Fi name)
- Usage statistics (such as the number of files scanned, duration of each scan, etc.)
We’re not 100 percent on board with these data collection practices. However, seeing that that’s the industry norm, we instead gave higher marks to those that allowed us to customize what types of data they collected. Most of the antivirus companies we checked were upfront about their data usage and sharing practices. Privacy is very important to us, so rest assured that our top picks passed our standards when it comes to data collection, usage, and sharing practices.
What is the best antivirus software for Android?
We tested out a lot of good Android antivirus apps, but the best ones were Kaspersky, Trend Micro, Avast, AVG, and ESET.
Are Android antivirus apps expensive?
On the contrary, Android antivirus apps are affordable. There are even free antivirus apps that provide decent virus and malware protection.
Can I download antivirus apps outside Google Play Store?
Some websites offer antivirus APK downloads, but for your safety, we recommend downloading apps straight from the Google Play Store only.
Why do I need antivirus for my Android smartphone?
Hundreds of thousands of Android malware are being added to malware databases per month, making Android one of the most targeted operating systems by malware and viruses. Without an antivirus app, your smartphone is exposed to risks that could compromise your digital security, which can lead to spyware and ransomware attacks as well as identity theft.
Statista. (2020). Development of Android malware worldwide 2016-2020. statista.com/statistics/680705/global-android-malware-volume/
Statista. (2020). Smartphone OS by age group in 2019.
Pew Research Center. (2017). A third of Americans live in a household with three or more smartphones.